Academic journal article Education

Application of a Wholetheme Perspective to the Movement Approach for Teaching Physical Education in Elementary Schools

Academic journal article Education

Application of a Wholetheme Perspective to the Movement Approach for Teaching Physical Education in Elementary Schools

Article excerpt

The wholetheme approach (Iran-Nejad, 1994) is different in several important ways from traditional approaches to teaching subject areas in schools. The approach was developed to solve some of the current problems in education resulting from the widespread use of piecemeal approach. The wholetheme approach provides learners with all encompassing themes to serve as re-organization contexts for the learners' intuitive knowledge base. The aim is to create opportunities for the leaner to organize and re-organize his or her domain comprehensive IKB, toward an increasingly domain-specific professional knowledge base. The application of the wholetheme perspective in teaching is intended to make the learning dynamic and meaningful to learners.

The purpose of this article is to present the theoretical base of the wholetheme approach and to explore how it can be applied to the movement approach, a relatively recent curriculum approach to teaching physical education. The article is organized into three major sections. In the first part, we will discuss the characteristics of the piecemeal approach and problematic aspects of it in teaching and learning subject matter. In the second part, we will present the theoretical framework and the tenets of the wholetheme approach. In the last part, we will discuss the application of the wholetheme perspective to teaching the movement approach.

The Piecemeal Approach

The traditional approach to teaching subject matter areas in school is piecemeal in that it offers learners highly domain-specific details to serve as foundational knowledge for their future professional development. Teachers simplify the subject matter for students by isolating concepts, facts, skills, and definitions and presenting them piece by piece. Through this process of simplification by isolation, teachers hope to provide students with an increasingly complex knowledge domain (Iran-Nejad, 1994). This approach focuses entirely on prior professional knowledge at the expense of learners' own intuitive knowledge base during the course of professional knowledge development. Professional knowledge is the disciplinary and specialized knowledge learned and constructed through the development of expertise. Intuitive knowledge base is the knowledge naturally learned through the interaction with persons and the experiences of real life.

Characteristics of the Piecemeal Approach

It has been argued that the theoretical basis of the piecemeal approach in school is rooted in empiricist epistemology (DeRuiter, 1991). Empiricist epistemology holds that human beings acquire knowledge of the world beginning with simple concepts and skills and gradually building to more complex knowledge. Some theories such as schema theory and information processing theory are based on an assumption that an individual's perception of events and objects as well as one's representation of knowledge in memory is organized in a sequential or a hierarchical way. Correspondingly, these theories suggest that the natural way to learn should fit the sequential and hierarchical characteristics of knowledge representations. These theories reinforce a major emphasis in the school curriculum on the structural properties of stored knowledge in the process of learning. They also reinforce the widely accepted practice of breaking specific knowledge domains into parts or components in teaching. They assume the sum of parts will some day equal the whole.

Based on these assumptions, teachers present topics in a knowledge domain beginning with simple topics. As the complexity of knowledge increases, teachers tend to simplify the content by employing either "bottom-up" or "top-down" teaching strategies. For instance, when they use a "bottom-up" teaching strategy, they intentionally break down the specific subject matter into a continuous sequence of discrete steps and then present each sequentially discrete step until they complete all steps involved. …

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